Biden extols graduates’ right to vote

ORANGEBURG, SC – President Joe Biden on Friday pledged to fight for blocked voting rights legislation and police overhaul, speaking to South Carolina State University graduates amid the harsh reality that months of talks with lawmakers have failed to bring the measures closer to becoming law.

Biden spoke at the historically black school a day after conceding that his nearly $ 2 trillion social and environmental bill was unlikely to become law this year, as he had hoped, due to the continuing disagreement among his fellow Democrats. Republicans are unanimously opposed to the spending.

Dressed in a black robe as he gave the December opening speech, the President lamented GOP opposition preventing voting rights bills from advancing in the Senate at 50-50 after the passed by the Democratic-controlled House. He criticized “that other team, which used to be called the Republican Party,” for refusing even to allow the bills to be debated.

“But this battle is not over,” Biden said. “We will continue the fight until we have finished it.”

Biden’s vow to continue pushing to protect what he called “the sacred right to vote” as the NAACP and similar groups have become frustrated with the White House over lack of progress on the issue. Voting rights are a priority for Democrats heading into next year’s midterm elections after Republican-controlled legislatures pass a wave of restrictive new election laws.

Biden has pledged a similar plea for police reform, another significant issue for the black community after a spate of murders of black men by police, including the death of George Floyd last year after a policeman from Minneapolis knelt on the neck for about nine minutes.

The House passed sweeping police reform earlier this year in response to Floyd’s murder, but months of negotiations between a bipartisan group of senators failed to produce a bill. Biden has vowed to continue pushing for police reform as well.

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“The fight is not over,” he told House Majority Whip’s alma mater Jim Clyburn, the most senior black member of Congress and the only South Carolina Democrat in the delegation.

Black voters, in South Carolina and other states, were a crucial part of the coalition that helped Biden win the presidential election.

He also referred to the infrastructure bill he recently enacted, including the promise of thousands of new jobs, but avoided discussing his central bill on social protection and the environment. This measure remains blocked in the Senate, in large part due to opposition from Senator Joe Manchin, D-Va.

Biden also pledged to help eradicate hatred and racism, referring to the Jan.6 uprising on Capitol Hill, carried out in the hope of overturning his election.

“You can conquer hate, but you cannot eliminate it,” Biden said. “He just slips under a rock and when political leaders give him oxygen, he comes out ugly and mean like before. We can’t give him oxygen. We have to walk on it.”

He did not discuss legislative strategy, including how he would turn the tough Democratic opposition to the $ 2 trillion plan in support. All he offered was a promise to keep fighting – the same advice he gave to graduates.

Biden told them that their “secret power” is the ability to understand the injustices and complications of the world, the enduring legacy of racism leaving black Americans at a disadvantage in terms of home ownership and economic mobility.

There were no ceremonies in December when Clyburn graduated in 1961, so he received his diploma by mail. Instead of addressing this year’s graduates, as had been planned, Clyburn joined the procession of students on stage to receive his diploma from Biden, whom he invited to deliver the keynote address.

Biden and Clyburn had planned a rally in South Carolina, Clyburn told reporters this week, and they figured Friday’s ceremony would be enough. The meeting is important to both, as it is Biden’s first time as president in South Carolina, where public support for Clyburn is credited with propelling Biden to the Democratic presidential nomination.

Information for this article was provided by Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press.

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